4 Things Japanese People Look for in a Foreign Friend

Before even beginning to develop this interesting topic, I must admit that not being Japanese gives me a certain point of view on this subject. I share with you those qualities which in my opinion have seemed valuable to the Japanese people around me. Also, I have met the vast majority of my Japanese friends in foreign contexts, either in Canada or in France, so this will be reflected in my ideas.

First, I have noticed that Japanese people are often anxious to practice foreign languages with native speakers. While they sometimes still spend time with fellow Japanese people, they are often very appreciative of foreign people who express an interest in them. So, my first suggestion to anyone looking to make Japanese friends is incredibly simple: share your culture with them. As Japanese culture is very unique, Japanese people are often very excited to try anything related to the foreign culture in which they find themselves. These activities can be incredibly simple and even unspectacular for us as we have experienced these activities for our entire lives.

Left: Skating! A great activity for Japanese people, it is very expensive in Japan. Center/right: Tim Hortons: For all non-Canadians, its a cheap starbucks that is awesome!

One example in my context as a Canadian was driving with some Japanese friends to what we call an “exhibition”. To exhibit means “to put on display,” and at these events farm animals are put on display. We can see the strength of the oxen as they pull heavy weights, the agility and speed of horses as they race around the track, and the beauty of a wide variety of other animals, such as the friendly rabbit. Going to such an event with Japanese friends was a great experience, as they were incredibly excited. Every little thing was extremely new to them.

Top Left: The guy is a full time student at my university, and the girls all visited my university for 3 and a half months, studying english. Bottom: The girl in the red sweater was my conversation partner during this 3 1/2 month span.

An important part of Canadian culture for many Japanese people is also learning about Christianity. While many of them overestimate the importance of the bible for many canadians, they still wanted to learn about it.

Left: A box of Japanese-english New Testaments were sent FROM Japan to my small Canadian university by a Japanese friend’s grandfather. Right: Before a message about the bible with several Japanese people.

Meeting and cooking food from your country is also an excellent way to spend time with Japanese people. Like humans the world over, they love to eat good food and are always appreciative of occasions to cook together. This is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to make Japanese friends and to help them integrate into a new culture. I often cooked pancakes with Japanese people, and, even though this is an incredibly simple Canadian breakfast dish, they always loved it. They also enjoyed the time spent together. To resume, there are so many aspects of our cultures which Japanese people would love to experience if we take the time to share these treasures with them.

Wednesday mornings we met for pancake breakfasts :)

The second way to develop connections with Japanese people is, however, slightly in contradiction with what I just said. If you want to help Japanese people and make friends, you need to start learning some Japanese, be willing to try Japanese food, and basically allow them to share their culture with you. I started to learn Japanese with the primary goal being to create more friendships with Japanese people. Even though my level was incredibly low, it provided a fun atmosphere where I could say simple phrases and allow them to laugh at how bad my pronunciation or grammar was. I had the advantage of being able to take two university classes in Japanese. If that doesn’t fit your situation, don’t worry! The students I met simply enjoyed seeing that someone was making an effort in a language in which very few people in my locale had any level of competency. Just beginning to learn the basics is already a good step! You can also invite them to show you how to cook Japanese food. My suggestion is okonomiyaki, as it is very simple and so delicious. This also depends on where you live, as this changes your access to Japanese ingredients. Most Japanese restaurants don’t live up to the standards of Japanese people, so they often prefer to cook native dishes themselves.

Left: OKONOMIYAKI PARTY!!! In France, with the biggest cabbage I have ever seen. Right: At a RACLETTE PARTY in France as well. Its fried meat and cheese with potatoes :)

Thirdly, if you want to make Japanese friends it is important to have RESPECT. This involves many facets. For example, Japanese culture is very different in how they view personal space and privacy. It is important to learn what they are comfortable with. Often, in my experience, it is important to develop friendships with Japanese people slightly slower than with people from western cultures. Also, as with all cultures, everyone is different! There are stereotypes of course, but these do not represent all or even necessarily most of the population. I have some friends who are very punctual and fulfill this stereotype, but I have a few others who are always late! It depends on the person, so you should be very careful to learn with what your friends are comfortable and to show respect to them as individuals.

Forth, just have fun! Like all people, Japanese people love to have fun and enjoy themselves, even more so when they are in a foreign country due to how hard they work in their home country. Take advantage of this to really enjoy your time with them. They will be so appreciative of everything you do, and you will make lifelong friends!

Thanks for reading! As always, leave any comments if you have any!